This dish is a marvel of home cuisine. It’s good in any weather, easy as can be, and with mere five to six ingredients readily available it will never send you grocery shopping in order to make it. Yes, you heard me, just five or six, and can be even four if you choose not to be fancy (I always choose to be fancy, with only intermittent success).
If you are like me, working crazy hours and having to think on your feet when it comes to making dinner between meetings, code reviews and game simulations, this simple and delicious stew won’t let you down. And you know what the best part is? You get to eat cold leftovers the next day, and they will be equally, and arguably even more, delicious. You take some crusty bread, break it into chunks, drop the chunks into the jellied sweet cold sauce and scoop them out. Mmmmm…. Ok, I’ll stop now, as I see you are starting to drool.
Couple of notes before I give you the recipe:
1. Use young roasting or broiling chicken, and not the stewing hen. Stewing hens are wonderful, but they take time to cook. We are going for quick results here.
2. If you don’t like dealing with smaller chicken bones, do yourself a favor and purchase about 3 lbs of chicken legs and thighs instead of the whole chicken. And no, you cannot use just chicken breast meat for the stew. You need skin, fat and bones to render flavor. Breast meat worshipers, you are missing out!
3. Enhance flavor by adding whatever makes you happy — cinnamon, mushrooms, prunes, raisins, garlic — it’s up to you.
Here are the What and How, for my batch, feel free to modify to your liking:
High Flame Chicken Stew
- 1 whole broiling or roasting young chicken, cut into serving size pieces, reserve the belly fat chunk
- 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 cups white wine or stock
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
- 1 dozen of baby bella mushrooms, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
- 3-4 whole cloves (optional)
- 1 tbsp ground cumin (optional)
See all those optional ingredients above? That list really depends on what you have in your house.
Cut chicken into serving size pieces, use cleaver to break down the back bone and divide breast halves into 4-6 chunks each. I recommend removing breast meat from the bone and discarding the bone (or reserving it for making stock some day), but again, this is my choice. Reserve the belly fat chunk that typically dangles on the bottom of the chicken.
Turn the heat to high under a Dutch oven. Put the chicken fat chunk in and allow fat to render, turn the chunk over a few times and press down with the wooden spoon to squeeze the fat out faster. When the fat chunk is nicely browned and substantially shrunk in size, you should have about 3-4 tbsp of fat on the bottom of your pot.
Add chopped onions at first and stir a few times to coat in fat. Saute for 1-2 minutes until lightly yellow. Add all chicken pieces except breast meat. Stir vigorously and cook for a few minutes until starts to brown and releases juices. Add breast meat at this point.
Keep cooking for another 10-12 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until chicken is lightly browned and doesn’t have any pink meat showing anywhere. Any juices released by onions and chicken should be almost evaporated at this point. Take care not to burn.
Add your flavorings at this point. I added cinnamon stick, cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp of ground cumin, and about a dozen of half dried mushrooms that I found in my fridge. Stir everything quite well.
Add stock or wine, a little bit at first, scrape the bottom of the pot with your spatula. Keep stirring. Add just enough stock to barely cover the chicken. Don’t use too much. If your chicken is very large, you may need to add more stock than I specified. If you don’t have enough stock, add water. The key is not to overdo. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high. Cover snugly, and cook for about 40 minutes. Check on your chicken and give it a quick stir 2-3 times to make sure it’s not burning.
Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold, with your favorite side dish.